Sunday, 31 January 2016

Gone Walking

As you're reading this, I'm currently out walking.

We've got a route planned out which looks as though it will be roughly eleven miles. I've only ever done the second half of this walk so I have no idea what to expect from it.

I'll tell you all about it next week. In the meantime, think dry, non-muddy thoughts please.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Film Review: The Desolation of Smaug, Part 2

Last week we meet Beorn and then Bilbo and the gang entered Mirkwood, sans Gandalf who had to run off on an urgent errand.

This week it's all spiders. Lots and lots of spiders. *shudder*

54. Now excuse me while I don't watch this next bit because there are lots of giant spiders and they really freak me out.

55. Seriously, it's the way they move.

56. And the size.

57. And the eyes.

58. And the pincery mouths.

59. I'm still not watching.

60. I can see some movement out the corner of my eye but it looks pretty spidery so I'm not looking at the screen yet.

61. Okay, I think Bilbo just 'stung' one of them. At least that's one less of them for me to worry about.

62. Oh and he's put on the Ring now. And he can hear what the spiders are saying. They sound a little bit Gollumish.

63. They also look slightly less scary when they're in Ring-vision, they're slightly distorted and weird looking.

64. Except when they scream at the screen like that, then they're just as scary.

65. And so he named it Sting.

66. The Dwarves are lucky there's all that web to help slow down their fall otherwise that could be painful.

67. I'm not a fan of the spiders, but the bit where they pull its legs off it kind of gross.

68. Imagine how different The Lord of the Rings would've been if Bilbo hadn't found the Ring here.

69. The commentary for this bit is funny, Peter Jackson is talking about that poor little guy going out for a pint of milk and getting attacked by Bilbo.

70. And so we can see just what a hold the Ring is already getting over Bilbo. And at this point he can't have had it for more than a few days. His reaction shows just how un-Bilbo-like his behaviour there was.

71. And here come the Elves. Specifically Legolas, spider-boarding this time.

72. I have really mixed views on Tauriel. On the one hand, she's not in the books and I don't like the random addition of a love interest for one of the Dwarves. On the other hand, she's pretty badass.

73. "Who is this creature? A Goblin mutant?" No, your future BFF, Legolas.

74. I do love that they included Legolas. It makes perfect sense that he would be there.

75. I am not a fan of Thranduil, though he is an improvement on the cartoon version. I get the arrogance and he's a pretty contrast to all the other Elves we've seen but he still really annoys me all the same.

76. "Aren't you going to search me? I could have anything down my trousers." "Or nothing." Ooh, burn!

77. Oh Legolas, you're just jealous because he's the new one everyone's fangirling over.

78. There's something rather dragonlike about the way Thranduil moves. He does that leaning and bending thing with his neck which makes him almost serpentine.

79. Thorin should really just get over himself and just agree to letting him having the gems he wants. Sure he should have helped them out after the dragon came, but what was he supposed to do against Smaug. If he'd gone in there, there'd have been an Elf barbecue.

80. The scarring to his cheek is really not pleasant. I would avoid dragons too if I was him.

81. One thing I like about Tauriel is that she shows Peter Jackson's Elves don't stick to traditional gender roles. Women can be Captain of the Guard too.

82. I know that they kind of set up a Kili/Tauriel/Legolas love triangle, but I can't help but get Tauriel/Thranduil vibes too. Not so much in this film, but a little at the end of the next one.

83. This makes me sad. Because Kili won't be going back to his Mum. He's never going to see her again.

84. I do like that Kili and Tauriel are able to have a pretty civilised conversation. An Elf and a Dwarf learning something about one another. Also the music playing in the background is lovely.

85. I suppose that's why Legolas was so pissy with the Dwarves in The Fellowship of the Ring; it was a Dwarf who stole the girl he fancied.

86. I always wondered, reading the book, how they were going to do this whole barrel thing. I'm not sure the Orc attack was really necessary, but it does liven up something which might have been a little boring otherwise.

87. The Elves passed out with wine does make me wonder about the drinking game in The Return of the King. Gimli drinks enough to pass out and Legolas drinks enough to make his fingers tingle. How much wine did those two Elves down there drink? I like to think those barrels were actually full before they started.

88. Bilbo clearly did not think his plan through all that well.

89. The barrel ride would make a pretty fun theme park ride, I think.

90. Dwarf pile up!

91. And here's another hitch in the plan. Hello, Bolg!

92. Go Kili!

93. Okay, the Orc head bouncing off the camera is both gross and awesome.

94. I really feel for Kili here. I've never been shot in the leg with an arrow, but I've impaled 4.5" of wood in my leg and that bit where the arrow snaps off as he falls into the barrel makes me cringe every time. There's nothing worse than breaking off the outside bit of something that is also inside your leg!

95. I do like the way the Dwarves gradually collect weapons from the Orcs they're fighting.

96. And Bombur's run away barrel bit is overkill but cool for an action scene.

97. Watching Tauriel with her bow and arrow makes me want to try archery again.

98. Legolas using the Dwarves as stepping stones is kind of funny too.

99. Oh dear, they've got away.

Next week, Gandalf gets into a spot of bother and we meet Bard the Bowman, currently Bard the Bargeman.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Chapter-by-Chapter: New Moon, Chapter 7

Reading the next chapter of New Moon was the second job on my to do list for the day in my Bullet Journal last Saturday, so naturally, I did three other things before I got to it. Then I nearly had a heart attack when it appeared that this chapter is roughly forty pages long. Except it isn't. I'd missed the end of Chapter 7 and so had flicked all the way through to where Chapter 9 began. Relax safe in the knowledge that this one is only about 18 pages long.

And it's titled: Repetition.

So hopefully we can skip over all the repetitive bits.

What Happens?

Bella is reminded of her time a year ago in Forks before coming to an arrangement with Jacob which allows them to spend more time together. In between working on their homework, they get the bikes finished before eventually getting together to try riding them for the first time.

Thoughts as I read:

I love that this chapter is called 'Repetition'. The whole book could have been called Repetition! Bella keeps on repeating herself about how bad she feels and than how weird she feels to be happy. Though given the fact that the last chapter ended with Bella realising she'd been in Forks a full year, I'm going to guess that something is going to happen which repeats the events of the previous year. Are more vampires going to show up? Or is it just going to be she's repeating the same stuff with Jacob over and over again?

We'll read on to find out.

Bella's doing something drastic though we're not sure exactly where she is, just that she's driving through some trees and she's really nervous about something and knows that whatever she's decided to do is a bad idea. I'm guessing she's going to visit the house where Edward and the gang lived.

And why is she doing this?

The other part was the strange sense of repetition I'd felt at school today, the coincidence of the date. The feeling that I was starting over – perhaps the way my first day would have gone if I'd really been the most unusual person in the cafeteria that afternoon.

Called it!

She's wanting to hear Edward's voice in her head again so she's testing the limits, trying to see what she has to do to make him speak to her like that again. And I'm right, she's heading to the house, to reassure herself that despite Edward's assertions that 'it will be as if I'd never existed' that he did actually exist. It would have been amazing if Edward had found some way to remove the house; that would really mess with Bella's head.

Except he didn't obviously. It's still there looking empty and creepy. She pulls up outside and walks right up to the porch, waiting to see whether or not Edward warns her off. He doesn't. And Bella doesn't have the guts to peer in the window; it'll either be bare and empty, or all their stuff will still be in there and she isn't sure which would be worse.

So she leaves:

I turned my back on the gaping emptiness and hurried to my truck. I nearly ran. I was anxious to be gone, to get back to the human world. I felt hideously empty, and I wanted to see Jacob. Maybe I was developing a new kind of sickness, another addiction, like the numbness before. I didn't care. I pushed my truck as fast as it would go as I barreled towards my fix.

Did I not call this too? Bella has a highly addictive personality.

And Jacob is waiting for her. So this is another element of repetition as they go to the shed where he's working on the bikes. The bike shed. Heh.

He's got one of the bikes actually looking like a bike by now, which impresses Bella. He also comments on the fact that he gets a little obsessive when he has a project, you're not the only one, mate. He's actually regretting the work taking so little time because he's worried that Bella is only coming by because of the bikes. She suggests that if all else fails they can do homework together. That sounds like a code to me. "Hey, Jacob, mind if I come over to do some… homework" *wink* They arrange to do this twice a week in order to keep their fathers happy.

Back at school the next day and Mike and Angela are happy to wipe the slate clean but Jess is less so. In fact, Mike is so happy with this new and improved Bella that he actually asks her out to see a film with him, just as friends, of course. But she's already got homework plans with Jacob that night so she brushes him off for a week. Poor Mike's a bit disappointed by this which is another example of repetition from the year before when he apparently did something similar. I think I remember that, didn't Bella try pushing him off onto Jess?

And then it's more time spent with Jacob; working on the bikes, doing homework. Eventually Jacob changes the plans slightly, telling Bella that she can come up to his but she has to wait for him to call. Obviously the bikes are going to be ready and they'll be able to take them out. Or at least put the finishing touches on them.

I'm right because these books are fairly predictable.

Jacob calls up and tells Bella that they have a date. Bella rushes over there and sure enough, there's a pair of motorbikes waiting for her when she arrives. They load them onto the truck and head off to some place that Jake knows.

They're driving along the cliffs beside the beach when Bella spots a group of people standing right on the edge. As Bella watches one of the guys just steps off it and completely freaks her out. She's about ready to jump out the car and rush for an ambulance for the apparently suicidal guys, but Jacob finds it all funny; the guy is just cliff diving. There's not much for people in La Push to actually get up to so they have to come up with these strange hobbies. If Bella had known about this she could have saved herself the trouble of getting the motorbikes.

When she learns that Jacob is into cliff diving as well, she's determined that he teach her how to do that as well. We also learn that the guy who jumped is Sam, presumably the same Sam who cropped up in Bella's dream recently. According to Jacob Sam and his gang are like extreme do gooders, calling themselves 'protectors'. Jacob tells her some story about a run in that he Quil and Embry had with them a while ago. I'm sure it's terribly important to the upcoming story but it's also kind of boring so we'll move on.

Bella brings it up again when they pull up and off load the motorbikes. Now Jacob reveals that everyone looks up to Billy because one of his ancestors was the last chief but they never used to bother with Jacob, until now. It seems like Sam would like to recruit Jacob to the gang. There's odd stuff going on in La Push; Embry's started hanging out with Sam as well, after missing a couple of weeks of school.

Billy wasn't much help when he brought it up with him either. Jacob gets a little upset so Bella hugs him to make it all better. Then they get into a discussion about their age difference again. Bella's two years older and can't start dating him. They almost touch on the topic of vampires when he comments on how pale she is, but then it's time to get on with riding the bikes.

Except that's a chapter for another week.

I think I would enjoy Bella's relationship with Jacob a lot more if we didn't have all the Edward stuff still cropping up. I am looking forward to eventually getting to the bottom of all the mysterious La Push stuff.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Bullet Journalling Resources

Earlier in the week I proudly showed off my Bullet Journal, the spiral bound notebook which is helping me keep my life in order. I thought I should probably share some of the resources which are helping to inspire and motivate me with my BuJo (as they're affectionately known).

Obviously, the first link I have to share is the Official Bullet Journal site. In Monday's post I gave a bit of an overview of the whole system and how it's supposed to work. This explains it so much better (and with far nicer pictures) than I could.

You'll notice that the official site is very much more monochrome than mine. That's because I came across Bullet Journalling originally on Pinterest. I was looking for inspiration for my Walking Journal and found this instead. There is so much helpful information on Pinterest that you should really just search for Bullet Journal and you'll find a wealth of useful tips and tricks. It's helpful when there's a layout or collection that you're trying to come up with but can't get just right as well, you can see if someone else has done something similar and adapt their ideas.

There are also two blogs which I have found unbelievably helpful. The first is Boho Berry which I found through my Pinterest searches. She has some really in depth blog posts on her Bullet Journal process, shares hundreds of photos of her layouts and also has a bunch of free resources available for download. The second is Tiny Ray of Sunshine which I found through a Google Image Search because she did a post which pretty much covered every weekly layout you might want to try in your BuJo.

And lastly, if you're on Facebook, I have to recommend the Bullet Journal Junkies group. It's so easy to share your pages and ask questions here because it's so active. If you've got a query about how other people handle something in their planners, or you just want to show off a new page you've come up with, here's the place to do it.

Do you Bullet Journal? Have you found any useful resources you'd like to share?

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Books 19 & 20 of 2015: The Game by Laurie R. King & Tales of Terror and Mystery by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Please excuse any terrible typos in this post, Yoda mistook my left hand for a tasty treat earlier and it's currently covered in sticking plaster which is making it tricky to type properly.

The first of today's two books under review is The Game by Laurie R. King. This is the second of King's stories about Sherlock Holmes after his retirement. This one picks up some time after the first of her books, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, Holmes and Mary Russell are now married and have been sent to India on a mission to find Kimball O'Hara.

This is one of a trio of books I got for Mr Click as a gift and so after he was finished with it, I picked it up, since it ticked my Reading Challenge requirement of a book which was written by a female author. It's about Sherlock Holmes and it sees him tackling a brand new mission, so it should be an enjoyable read, except both Mr Click and I struggled with it.

For my part, I found it tricky to get into. There seemed to be long periods where not much was happening and then after what seemed like more than half the book, they found O'Hara and everything happened. I couldn't help but think that this book suffers from the same problem that the last one did; it either could of been a lot shorter, or it could have been covered in a little more detail and split into more than one book.

There was a lot more focus on Mary than Sherlock as well. I struggled to see them as a married couple because aside from touching her hair occasionally, they didn't seem very involved. I realise that Holmes is definitely not your average man, but if you're going to make him married, at least have him show some sort of affection or something for the person he's married to, otherwise why can't Mary Russell just be a companion like Watson?

I also have a really random complaint about this book, which I suspect is a result of me not being a teenager anymore and yet still expect to be able to read into the small hours of the morning, but the print in this edition is pretty small. When I was reading it in bed, my eyes would get tired and I'd want to fall asleep.

All that said, I couldn't help but wonder about the next book in the series; the third one in the set that I got Mr Click. I do have to admit I like the third one, Locked Rooms, much better than the other two in the series. But I'll review that one some time around April.

And so onto the second book review for the day, Tales of Terror and Mystery by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This one is a collection of short stories by Sherlock Holmes' creator himself. It was a conveniently free Kindle download which ticked the Reading Challenge mystery/thriller box.
Compared to The Game, I raced through this one, starting it one day and finishing it the next. It's available on Project Gutenberg which means I can read it on the go; that makes it easy to read in my breaks at work or waiting for stuff in the car, since I can pull it up on my phone. It's handy.

I liked trying to figure out the twist in the tales. I did guess the endings for 'The New Catacomb' and 'The Case of Lady Sannox'. They were pretty similar, but it still made me feel kind of smart, sort of like when you can figure out one of Holmes's cases before he does.

I read The Lost World & Other Stories a couple of years ago and they had a more supernatural/sci-fi vibe to them. A couple of the stories in Tales of Terror and Mystery reminded me of them, in particular 'The Horror of the Heights' and 'The Terror of Blue John Gap'.

There's also a nice little Easter Egg in a couple of the stories; Sherlock Holmes crops up twice, kind of. It's a nice little nod to fans of his other famous stories. It also made sense because the stories featured the sorts of cases that he almost certainly would've investigated.

I'd definitely recommend this one to fans of Conan Doyle's other works.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Welcome to my Bullet Journal

Right at the end of last year I discovered a magical thing called a Bullet Journal. And I mean right at the end of the year, literally, it was the night of the 30th of December. I made a quick dash to our local bookshop on New Year's Eve to find a suitable journal to make into my Bullet Journal.

What is a Bullet Journal? I hear you ask.

Well, quite simply, it's whatever you want it to be.

It's a planning concept put together by a guy called Ryder Carroll and you can read all about it on the official Bullet Journal website. In its most basic form, it's a do-it-yourself planner. You can lay it out whichever way suits you best, so that's something I'm still working on.

I grew up with 'To Do' lists, which are a good way of seeing what needs to be done. But it can be overwhelming when you look at a 30 point list and have to figure out where to start, or what to do on each day of the week. I've put reminders in my phone, but I don't always check them, or if I set a time they might not pop up at the right moment of the day. Plus I have a hundred and one other things I want to remember or do so I either end up with dozens of bits of paper or a whole bunch of lists and memos in my phone (sometimes in three or four different apps).

The way the Bullet Journal concept works is that you start it with an Index and then each time you log something in it, you add it to the Index so you can find it again later. Either you're sensible and you buy a notebook with page numbers already on them, or you do it yourself. I'm going for the do it yourself option so as I go, I number, just in case I have a complete disaster and need to rip one out.

I started mine off with something which is called a 'Future Log'. It's a work in progress overview of the year which I'm adding to as I go. I started putting birthdays and holidays onto it, then got sidetracked. That's cool, I'll keep going with it over time. My Mum got me some cool mini sticky notes for Christmas which I'm using on my Future Log so I can move them around if plans change.

Next up I have a month overview; we're in January so that's my current month overview. I've got one line for each day of the year. My life isn't interesting enough to have something for every day, but I've got space to add things as I go. I've also given myself some tasks which are for the whole month. These are general things like 'Kickstart Blogging' which might be too vague to put on a general to do list. It's quite nice to be able to glance at the month and see how well I'm getting on.

Some people use a weekly log, some a daily one, and some use both. If I was at school or had a fluctuating work schedule then I might use a weekly log, but at the moment I don't need to plan a full week at a time. I can put regular stuff onto my month overview and then just add them to the daily log as I need to.

This is where some people will probably be turned off by the idea of the bullet journal. It depends on when you've got time to work on it. I sit in bed on an evening and review the day, then prepare the next one or two and anything else that I want to add to my journal. If you don't have time to do that every day but can find a bit of time once a week, then the weekly log option might be best for you.

You can switch between them too. Right now I'm using the daily option, when I'm in Wales for a week I won't need to remember to do things before work or write blog posts, or check in with people, so I'll probably switch to a week's view while I'm there. That's what I love about my 'BuJo', it's completely flexible for what you're doing at the moment. No more investing in a diary and then giving up on it because there's not enough space (or too much).

On my daily pages, alongside the date and day I draw eight little glasses of water (to try and keep my fluid intake up because I get busy at work and then forget to refill my water bottle). Then I draw a bunch of little boxes beside any tasks I have for the day; these get coloured in when they're completed, half coloured if they're in progress, a cross through them if they're cancelled, or a little arrow if they need to be moved to another day (usually just postponed to the next day, but if it's longer than that I'll write the day in brackets at the end of the line).

I've also been recording the weather and at the end of each day I try to write one or two lines about it. I try to write something for the day that's made me happy, though sometimes I'll write something that's bugged me, it's a nice little way to record my thoughts without writing a massive journal entry.

Rather than saving a few pages without knowing just how many you're going to use for a particular week or series of days, when something crops up that you want to log, you just turn to the next free page and start there. It gets logged on the Index and that makes it a lot easier to find when it's needed.

And what other things do you add to your Bullet Journal?

Pretty much anything you like.

For January I've got a Habit Tracker where I've set myself a bunch of goals and I track my progress with them. You can see at a glance how well you're doing. I've also set myself a bunch of goals for the year, I'm curious to see how I get on with those. I've even got pages dedicated to my upcoming trip to Wales (things to do, things to pack and things to do while I'm there).

My current favourite page is one I made for keeping up with the episodes of House that we're watching. I even ordered more pens to give me the range of colours to match the blu ray box sets for each series.

I'm about a sixth of the way through my current notebook and it wasn't the one I'd have chosen if there was an option. Lots of people use graph or dotted books and that's what I'll go for next time. I'm anticipating needing a new one somewhere around March right now, possibly April. I've got my sights set on a Leuchturm, similar to my book journal.

Expect to see some more in depth posts on my BuJo in the future. I'm having fun making it look good whilst being functional, and I quite enjoy showing the thing off.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Weekly Rundown: Wandering

This week has just been unbelievably busy for me and the weekend has been such a welcome relief. I pretty much did nothing for most of yesterday morning.

Thanks to my Fitbit I know exactly how much I did, or rather, didn't do. By 2pm I'd taken less than 1,000 steps.

So Tara and I went out for a walk. A lovely long rambly walk where we just wandered where the feeling took us. I'd got a vague idea that we would do our usual 'circuit'. This involved walking towards the back gate, veering off towards the shore which you then follow along until you reach the Avenue which leads up to the main road and back to the house.

Yesterday there were a lot of people on the estate who had obviously had a similar idea. I didn't want to disturb their walks with my crazy labrador, and I was having a pretty good time just strolling around listening to my music so didn't want them to disturb mine, so there was a lot of veering off the original course.

This meant that I went right to the back gate, down onto the beach, along to the bird hide that I often walk past but have never visited, up to the cemetery, around the area surrounding the greenhouse and then back through some woodland to the main road and home. I'd planned to do this walk with my camera, but in the end I just took Tara and my welly boots. The latter was definitely needed because I spent most of the time walking around in thick slurpy mud, the sort that grabs hold of your boots and is a little bit reluctant about letting them go. At one point I nearly lost one!

My Weekly Challenge on Walk Middle-earth this week was to walk for thirty minutes. The above photos were taken at the thirty minute mark; I kept going for another thirty-one minutes after this.

Tara was exhausted afterwards, and I was pretty tired too.

So I'm taking it easy today. I'm catching up online, I'm writing (I started work on a story this week), I'm still working my way through The Lord of the Rings (I cannot believe how slow I'm being to read this at the moment, at this rate I'll be dragging this hefty tome to Wales with me).

Have you been on any good walks recently? Care to share some photos?

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Film Review: The Desolation of Smaug, Part 1

Or as I keep typing it: Samug. Whoever he is.

I've finally made time to watch the film (or rather, the first hour and eight minutes of it, I'll get to the rest of it later today). This is the second in the Hobbit film trilogy and it's where the action really starts to happen. The last three hours were really just warming up for this.

1. It's taken me a while to getting around to it, but it's finally time for The Desolation of Smaug. I love the opening music, it's all dramatic and then it goes into the Hobitton theme for a minute.

2. Hello, Bree! Been a while since we were here last.

3. And there's Peter Jackson reprising his brilliant role as 'man eating a carrot'.

4. I like that we get to see more of the town. If you watch the special features you learn that its actually mostly houses from Laketown which have been repurposed.

5. The barmaid is Katie Jackson, the director's daughter, and the Hobbit at the bar is Kiran Shah, one of the doubles from the Lord of the Rings films.

6. Hello, Gandalf. Also, hello backstory.

7. Let's revisit the Battle of Moria, just in case you've forgotten what it looked like. Also, let's meet Thrain because we'll be seeing a little more of him in this film.

8. I'm sure I mentioned it in the last film review, but I wish they'd made mention of the Burned Dwarves. I'm sure they could've slotted it in.

9. I like that this reveals that Gandalf was the one pushing for the Dwarves to go after the Lonely Mountain. He had a good deal of foresight really.

10. Hehe, imagine mistaking Gandalf for a vagabond. Can't imagine why they might think that.

11. Gandalf pretty much orchestrates the whole trip to get rid of Smaug as well as recruiting Bilbo to the party.

12. Oh, and speaking of Bilbo, there he is.

13. And there's a big bear... thing. Actually, the first time I saw this film, I thought he was another Warg at first.

14. Gandalf knows everything. He just lets other people, or Dwarves, think they are in charge but he's actually just pulling all the strings.

15. Either the sun was just coming up in that last scene or they've been running away from that bear all night!

16. Bombur overtaking everyone else is pretty hilarious.

17. We saw this in 3D in the cinema and I loved how the bees seemed to fly out the screen.

18. And this is why they needed Gandalf and Bilbo on the trip, because most of the Dwarves can't even figure out how to open a door. They definitely wouldn't be able to get into the mountain, even if the entrance wasn't hidden.

19. Beorn's house looks lovely. I'd live there. I'm not sure about keeping cows and goats in your dining room though.

20. "You'll be safe here... I hope." Yeah, as long as the bear has as much trouble with opening doors as the Dwarves do, you'll be fine.

21. Aww, mices.

22. Is it weird that sometimes when I'm in a bad mood, I mutter the Ring rhyme in Black Speech under my breath? It's kind of soothing.

23. I like how Sauron is basically just nothingness in this scene. It's like a shadow with nothing there to cast it. Very creepy.

24. I thought Azog was ugly but Bolg is way uglier.

25. Cleverly silhouetted naked bear man there.

26. I would freak the hell out if a bumblebee that size came anywhere near me. That was about twice
the size of the one that stung me a couple of year ago.

27. I'm so glad that they put this scene back into the Extended Edition of the film. It's one of my favourite bits in the book and I missed in the first time I saw it.

28. Hehe, "Bombur, you count as two, you should come out alone."

29. That pig looks like the one which lives next door to my Mum.

30. Gandalf is just brilliant in this bit, he's all jolly and forgetful.

31. "Is that it?" Not quite.

32. That is a really big milk jug.

33. I love that Beorn makes even Gandalf look small. I've gotten used to Gandalf being the tallest one in the group.

34. Beorn has some serious eyebrows. It makes me want to pull out my scissors.

35. Aww, little meece.

36. And Gandalf's just realised that he's got somewhere else to go.

37. "A tomb so dark it would never come to light." Not so much.

38. Bit of pretty New Zealand scenery there.

39. Mirkwood looks like what you'd get if Fangorn and Lothlórien had a baby forest.

40. Galadriel can pretty much call Gandalf whenever she feels like it. That's a useful skill to have.

41. I love this bit where Bilbo almost comes clean about the Ring and then thinks better of it. I think Gandalf almost knows what Bilbo is going to tell him as well.

42. Thranduil doesn't really keep his garden in very good order, does he?

43. In the original PS2 Hobbit game this is where I always used to get to, then I got completely stuck.

44. "The waters of this stream are enchanted." "Doesn't look very enchanting to me." Hehe.

45. Thorin's already got a bit of that evil leader thing going on. I'm guessing this is foreshadowing for the next film.

46. I think I could just watch a whole film of Martin Freeman trying to cross those vines. I'd love to see the outtakes.

47. I like that they send the lightest, he makes it across and the vines hold so they decide this means that all of them should just climb across them. Obviously if the vine can hold one Hobbit, it'll hold thirteen Dwarves!

48. Don't shoot the pretty deer. It glows, it's so beautiful.

49. Yes Thorin, you made your own luck. And now you're lucky enough that you've all got to carry Bombur through the forest.

50. I love how weird and dreamlike they make this with the throbbing noise and the fuzzy distorted images. I always wondered how they were going to convey the strangest of the forest.

51. Bilbo, don't touch! He's basically just rung the doorbell to let the spiders know that there are tasty edibles in the forest.

52. That's it guys, bicker amongst yourselves. That'll make a bad situation worse!

53. Pretty butterflies. I love the contrast between the orange leaves and the blue butterflies.

Next week there will be spiders. Lots and lots of spiders. It's not pretty.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Chapter-by-Chapter: New Moon, Chapter 6

I normally leave these posts to the end of the weekend, or even later in the week and then hope I get a chance to upload them. I'm trying really hard to be well-organised this year (not just with the blog, but more about that on Monday) so I decided to try writing my posts backwards this week. I'm actually writing this last Saturday and it seems to have worked.

Last week we witnessed Bella's decision to be thoroughly reckless as she picked up a couple of broken down motorcycles and recruited her young friend Jacob Black to help her get them in working order. This will allow her to be reckless all over the roads of Forks.

This week we're onto Chapter 6: Friends.

What Happens?

Bella meets Jacob's friends. Charlie hangs out with his friends. Bella is friends with Jacob. She also sits with her friends at lunchtime. This chapter is brought to you by The Rembrandts.

Thoughts as I read:

I'm guessing the 'friends' of the chapter title will be Bella and Jacob, or perhaps now that she's finally moving on from Edward, Bella will actually start over again with Jessica and the gang. I'm hoping for a slightly happier chapter again now.

Bella and Jacob's plan to keep Billy from discovering the motorbikes pretty much relies on the fact that Billy's wheelchair can't get to the outbuilding where Jacob works on his car. It's a pretty safe hiding place though I do wonder how he's going to explain how both he and Bella have motorbikes to his father, Charlie's friend, when he's done with them.

Looks like the friends in the chapter title might be Jacob's friends, Quil and Embry. Bella is about as impressed with these names as I am. Thought I do like the idea of a name being a 'hand-me-down', that's a nice way of putting it. It doesn't take long for Quil and Embry to show up either, Jacob promptly introduces Bella as his friend. The new kids are way more interested in the bikes than in Bella, though I suspect they don't believe that Bella is just Jacob's friend.

"Bella and I are going to fix up these bikes," Jacob explained inaccurately. But bikes seemed to be the magic word. Both boys went to examine Jacob's project, drilling him with educated questions. Many of the words they used were unfamiliar to me, and I figured I'd have to have a Y chromosome to really understand the excitement.

Despite not understanding any of what they're talking about, Bella is surprised to find that she's enjoying herself. She's slightly baffled by this strange new sensation. This just shows how screwed up she's been recently. In fact, she's had such a good time that she's desperate to come back again on Sunday. Looks like she's just replacing her Edward obsession with a Jacob/motorbike one instead.

Back home, Charlie's as surprised as the rest of us at the change in Bella's mood. If I was him, I'd still be thinking about getting her to speak to someone, but I bet he's just relieved that she's acting slightly more normally now.

Even more surprisingly, Bella sleeps without weird dreams or nightmares. She doesn't feel 'numb' when she wakes the next morning.

I pushed that thought from my mind, and concentrated, as I got dressed, on the fact that I was going to see Jacob again today. The thought made me feel almost… hopeful. Maybe it would be the same as yesterday. Maybe I wouldn't have to remind myself to look interested and to nod or smile at appropriate intervals, the way I had to with everyone else. Maybe… but I wouldn't trust this to last either. Wouldn't trust it to be the same – so easy – as yesterday. I wasn't going to set myself up for disappointment like that.

There's the Bella we've come to know and love. Well, come to know at least.

So she heads back to Jacob's, after having come up with a plan to get Charlie to invite Billy out, leaving she and Jacob alone. And where are they spending their date, I mean day, together? At the dump of course. Jacob explains that this is the best place to find freebies to help save Bella some money, after all, this little venture might cost more than a hundred dollars!

Bella can't quite work out just why she is enjoying herself so much. Maybe it's, I don't know, because you're having fun and not spending all of your time with someone who might flip at any moment and take a chunk out of your neck! In the end she decides that it's actually Jacob who is making her feel this way. Whereas Edward was a cold person, well, vampire, Jacob is a happy person who makes people around him feel happy. His happy-making powers are so strong that they even work on Bella.

There is a funny moment when Jacob spots the missing stereo in the truck:

"Did the stereo break?" he wondered.
"Yeah," I lied.
He poked around in the cavity. "Who took it out? There's a lot of damage…"
"I did," I admitted.
He laughed. "Maybe you shouldn't touch the motorcycles too much."

Hehe. Actually that reminds me, Bella hasn't fallen over or injured herself for at least two chapters. I suspect we'll have another big accident coming up some time soon.

While we wait for that to happen, they drive to some other town to a parts supply shop and chat. There's quite a bit of talking about their age difference. Bella seems to think that Jacob is interested in her. I just want to yell at Jacob: Don't do it! Take your motorbike and run! Get out while you still can! Look at Edward, he had to leave town to get away from her!

Back at the shed, Jacob gets to work. Luckily he doesn't hand her a tool and invite her to join him, otherwise that would've been the source of Bella's next hospital trip right there. Later Charlie shows up with Billy and they have to run out of the shed to prevent Charlie from coming to investigate. The dash makes Bella laugh which is something she still can't get used to. You know things are messed up when laughing feels both right and wrong. Edward really did a number on her, didn't he?

Turns out everyone's been invited to Billy's for dinner and Bella once again, to her surprise, has a good time. She doesn't actually want to leave! She even plans to take her homework there after school the following day.

And I'm right. Jacob is becoming her Edward-patch:

I was nervous when we got to the house. I didn't want to go upstairs. The warmth of Jacob's presence was fading and, in its absence, the anxiety grew stronger. I was sure I wouldn't get away with two peaceful nights of sleep in a row.

I feel sorry for Jacob. She's going to latch on to him and wear him out like she did with Edward. Perhaps Bella's part supernatural being as well. Also, every time she talks about going upstairs to bed, I keep on expecting her to find a vampire there telling her there's something up with Edward purely because I feel like that is exactly the sort of direction these books would go in.

That night Bella doesn't sleep as well as before and she has a pretty crappy night with her weird dream. Except there's someone new there now; the guy who found her when she got lost in the woods. The dream-Sam's shape seemed to change slightly as well. Wooo! Foreshadowing!

Back at school, Bella is practically invisible. Jessica barely speaks to her, can't really blame her really after the way Bella's behaved for the last few months. Give Bella her due, she does try to make an effort, but it basically results in her sitting at the lunch table with a bunch of people eavesdropping on their conversations.

And so it's revealed that Angela and Ben (I don't even remember who these people are) were going for a picnic when they saw a big black thing which might have been a bear except it seemed way too big for one. Other people claim to have seen it too and finally Bella is able to contribute to the conversation by pointing out that there was someone in the shop at work claiming to have seen one too. Everyone seems pretty surprised at her jumping in like this, but Mike covers it well and agrees with her.

Lauren and Jessica seem really annoyed at Bella's decision to rejoin the group but Angela and Mike are nice to her. That's a good thing. It's about time she started hanging around with people her own age, instead of guys who are eighty years her senior and dead. So I guess this chapter's title did include Bella in it as well, she seems to be making friends again.

And it's just as well because she observes that she's been here exactly a year now. It's like nothing has changed.

Except, y'know, all that stuff that happened in the last year.

This chapter's not been too bad. I think I prefer the chapters without vampires and where Bella behaves like a nearly normal human being. I guess that's not going to last for long though. It's probably going to go downhill soon. I know from the movie posters that Edward's got to come back sooner or later. Sigh.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Five Ways To Get Extra Steps

On Monday I shared my review of my super duper brand new Fitbit Charge HR because one of my resolutions for the year has been to get more active.

In the past I've found a pedometer a useful way to encourage me to be a little more active but my Fitbit shares my results with my friends which makes me try a little bit harder to hit those extra steps. I did a bit of googling back when I got it to find some suggestions for upping your step count but these are some of the techniques I'm using now.

1. Be inefficient

I forget where it was that I read this one, I suspect it was in a blog post. Basically, if you've got a bunch of things to carry from one room to another and you're able to pile them all up and do it in one trip, you might get ten steps; if you carry it in two goes, you might get twenty.

Obviously, you don't always have time to do two or three trips. But when you do have time to be inefficient, it's a good way to get in some extra steps. For example, last week when I was putting the laundry away I stuck the basket on the bed, then I put away a handful of socks, went back to the basket for a couple of tops, went back to the basket for another handful of socks, and so on. My bedroom isn't that big but a racked up a good number of steps doing it that way.

2. Travel further

Some people suggest getting on the bus at the next stop or parking in a further parking space from where you'd normally park. You can do this in smaller ways as well. At work, use the toilet furthest away from you. If you can go up or down a floor, do it. If not, go to the cubicle furthest from the door. It might only be an extra couple of steps, but over the course of a day, they'll mount up.

3. Schedule activity

I am a creature of habit. I've taken to setting my alarm five minutes earlier each day to give me a little more time to get out with the dog. That means I have an extra five minutes of walking time each morning. When the days are lighter I'm hoping to set my alarm even earlier to give me a chance to go even further.

If you know you're going to have a long period of inactivity, try and do something to break it up and get you on your feet. For me at work, this might be a trip to refill my bottle at the water cooler (or given our more recent weather, refill my hot water bottle at the boiler). At home it might be a quick trip into the garden with the dog to let her out. I'm more inclined to do something if I have some sort of reminder to do it; it might be an actual alarm, or just a mental note to stretch my legs once an hour.

4. Share your goals

One of the things I love about my Fitbit is the app which allows me to add people to compete against. I'm slowly adding all my Fitbit-using family and friends and nothing pushes me to get in a few more steps than seeing one of them is beating me. It's one thing to have a personal target but it's something else to share that target with someone. If nothing else you can cheer each other on or commiserate when you've had a bad week.

Even if you're not wanting to compete against some one, just sharing your progress can be helpful. I'm finding the Walk Middle-earth group and Runkeeper a fantastic way to keep track of how I'm doing. We've got different goals and different ability levels, but we're all supporting each other.

5. Just walk

This probably seems obvious. If you want to get more steps in, you need to do the legwork. I've been making an effort to get out morning and evening with the dog, but sometimes the weather, time and other stuff are against you. It's amazing how much you can get in without leaving the house.

Lots of places online advocate walking up and down while you're on the phone. I've become rather partial to marching on the spot while I'm cleaning my teeth. I work a desk job and so often my breaks involve me moving from sitting at my desk to sitting at the canteen. Now, to the bemusement of my colleagues, I may be seen walking round the canteen tables while I text Mr Click. One text can be equal to over a hundred steps and I can send a lot of texts in a day.

Do you track your activity or use a pedometer? What are some of your techniques for increasing your step count?

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Books 17 & 18 of 2015: Nightmare & Nightshade by Stephen Leather

This week both of the books I'm reviewing are by Stephen Leather. A colleague is a fan of the Jack Nightingale series and spent the early part of last year sharing these books with most of the team. After I got through the first couple pretty quickly, he leant me the rest to read.

Warning: Here be spoilers both for these books and for the series.

The third book in the series is Nightmare and it sees Jack Nightingale receiving messages from the beyond about the little girl, Sophie, whose death led to his departure from the police force and saw him starting work as a private investigator. Even though she's dead, she's not at peace and Jack's going to do whatever he can to put things right.

I originally wrote this review last year shortly after finishing the book:

When this one started I wasn't too sure about it and it took me a while to get into it. I was expecting to see something of Jack's sister but there was no sign of her and instead all the focus seemed to be on things with Marcus Fairchild. Once I did get into it, around the halfway mark, I finished it really quickly.

I'm quite pleased that Jack and Jenny finally hooked up. I've been waiting for that one to happen since the beginning of the series, though as this book progressed I couldn't help but wonder if there was some sinister reason for Jenny taking the job as Jack's assistant. I'm glad that she wasn't aware of what Fairchild was using her for, it would have been so disappointing if she was operating under her own volition.

It's really clever how everything got sort of wrapped up at the end. When it looked like Jack was going to sacrifice himself to save Sophie, I couldn't help but wonder how Leather had gone on to write two more books in the series. I like that everything sort of reset itself back to how it was right at the very beginning of the first book.

It's made me curious for how the rest of the series will progress now, whether the devils will continue to crop up and what will happen regarding Gosling Manor, because we've basically gone back in time two years, so will events just repeat themselves in the future? I'm looking forward to finding out.

With that in mind, I moved straight on to the fourth book in the series, Nightshade. Again, this is my review from last year, shortly after I finished it:

Normally I don't go straight on to the next book in a series because I like to alternate with other books to save myself from getting bored with what I'm reading. But as someone at work lent me the final three books in the Jack Nightingale series I wanted to get through them as quickly as possible, especially as other people are also working through them as well.

I think that this one has been one of the quickest reads in the series yet. I've taken to reading in my breaks at work, along with in bed during the morning and at night. I wouldn't have thought that the odd five or ten minutes of extra reading I'm getting in at work would make much difference, but I seem to be getting through things quicker, so perhaps it does.

This storyline was a lot more uncomfortable than the previous books in the series. This one focused mainly on child abuse, which made for difficult reading in places. There was also the fact that Bella was an abducted child who played a very big role in the story as well. I'm wondering what the repercussions of Jack killing her will be

I felt a little like the bit with Proserpine was tacked on. I liked the direction the story was going without the devils cropping up. I could have gotten by without seeing her in this story because I don't think that she added a huge amount to the story, especially as Jack basically called her up to get something done, then couldn't do it anyway, then things got taken care of.

I'm a bit sketchy on where the events of this book fall in relation to the previous books. I'm curious about whether we'll visit Gosling Manor again in the future and if we might see Jack's biological father again, as well as what the repercussions of events in this book will be and what will happen with Mrs Steadman.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Fortnight with a Fibit Charge HR

Two weeks ago my Fitbit arrived and I've barely taken it off since. In the past I've used pedometers and found them useful for tracking my steps but a little impractical. They'd fall off my work trousers, I'd accidentally hit the reset button halfway through the day and lose my work for the day. I did have the Nintendo Walk With Me one but having to sync it to your DS at the end of each day or two was a little inconvenient at times (if you were away from home and your DS, you'd risk losing your total after a couple of days).

Until now I've been using the Samsung Health app on my phone, which is good but only counts steps while you're carrying your phone. As my phone spends its time at work in my locker, and frequently is left in the bedroom or on the coffee table when I'm at home, I knew I was missing out on steps. I did consider knitting a little pouch so that I could carry it around with me when I was home at least, but I'd heard about Fitbits and I liked the idea of having something I could wear on my wrist.

I also liked the idea of something which could track things like floors climbed, calories burned and even your heart rate. There's a fantastic range of Fitbits available. They advertise that there's one for literally every lifestyle. I settled on the Charge because if I'm going to wear something on my wrist, it might as well act as a watch. But it wasn't that much more for a Charge HR which tracks your heart rate and I thought that would be a nice little feature to have as well.

I read online that it's useful to download the Fitbit app and set up your profile before you get your device and I'm glad I did because it meant that as soon as I got it out the box, I was able to set it up. It took about an hour and a half of charging to be ready to wear. A full charge lasts roughly five days and you simply plug it into the USB charger. I kind of begrudge the time I'm not wearing it when I do have to move around, so I try and time my charges for times when I'll be sitting down at my laptop anyway. So far they've tied up pretty well.

I should add a note on the sizing of the Fitbits because, aside from which sort to get, the wristband sizing caused me the biggest headache before I bought it. The Charge HR comes in large and small and I seemed to be at the large end of small or the small end of large. By the looks of things, most places are fairly helpful when it comes to swapping if you get the wrong size.

In the end, I got Mr Click to measure my wrist and compared it to the sizing chart on the Fitbit website. This suggested that I should go for the small, and I'm glad I did. It fits comfortably on my wrist and I normally wear it around the middle hole; if my wrist gets any larger I've got four more holes, and if it gets thinner I've got another five to go. I suspect that if I'd gone for the large I wouldn't have anywhere to go if I lost weight.

I'll be honest. For almost the first week that I had it, I found myself constantly aware of this thing on my wrist. It's not heavy or particularly bulky once you get used to it. It was just a lot larger than the watch I had been wearing before. I also felt the need to keep checking how I was getting on throughout the day. Now I regularly forget that I'm even wearing it.

One of the first things that I noticed was that I do take more steps than I thought I did. The step counter on my phone would count somewhere between 200 and 4,000 steps on the average weekday, depending on what I was up to and whether I had my phone on me. My Fitbit shows that I do closer to 7,000 most weekdays, so it's not that much more of a push to get up to 10,000 from there.

With the Fitbit app you get badges for certain achievements. On my first day I picked up the Happy Hill badge for climbing 10 flights of stairs; the Fitbit is able to tell when you are climbing a slope or staircase and the hill I live at the top of is roughly equivalent to eight flights of stairs. I've also received a 'Boat Shoe' badge for walking 5,000 steps in one go and a 'Sneaker' badge for taking a walk of 10,000 steps.

The sleep tracking function is really useful as well. Have you ever woken up feeling like you've had an awful night's sleep but you're not sure why? The Charge HR tracks your sleep and registers when you're awake and restless. One morning I woke up feeling exhausted and like I'd hardly slept; my Fitbit agreed saying that although I'd only been awake twice, I'd been restless twenty-one times.

So far I've not really used the calorie or water trackers but they're something that I might play around with in the future. I have started tracking my fluid intake in my journal because I know I don't always drink as much as I should. It would be good to get into the habit of tracking it in the app as well.

The feature that I am using quite a lot is the silent alarm. You set an alarm through the app and then the Charge HR vibrates to alert you. I use one at 6:25am on a weekday to wake me up before the main alarm goes off, and one an hour later to remind me to get up and take the dog for a walk. It's the same thing that alerts you when you achieve your day's goal, except the daily step goal is accompanied by a little firework display on the face of the Charge HR.

Being able to see my progress throughout the day is a fantastic motivator for me. For example, on the day I wrote this post, I had hit 8,400 steps so I did everything I could to squeeze in the 1,600 steps that I needed to get that firework display, up to and including walking up and down the living room whilst checking my phone to keep on getting those steps in.

It's only been two weeks so far, but I'm really enjoying it and I'm constantly looking for people I can add on the Fitibit site. I'm terribly competitive and I'm determined to get more floors climbed badges than any of my friends. If you've got a Fitbit of any sort, I'd love to add you on You can view my profile here.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Weekly Rundown: Blizzarding!

I'm late with my Weekly Rundown post this week, mainly because I've spent best part of the day uploading almost all of the other posts for the next six days. You'll also be pleased to learn that I've finally gotten around to watching The Desolation of Smaug for my next Hobbit film review set of posts.

So I'm late because I've been organised. Go figure.

I'm also a little bit late because I got distracted reading House fanfiction. Yeah, yeah, I know, it's like I'm a teenager again. What's more than a little ironic is that I stumbled across one that I vaguely remembered and I happily sat here reading it. It wasn't until I got to the end of the second chapter that I realised it was one that I'd written. Oops, hehe. And it wasn't too bad either.

We've almost finished the first series of House now and I'd forgotten how much I love this show. I've seen the first couple of series enough times to vaguely remember what will happen, but not well enough to remember everything, so it's almost like watching a brand new TV series. I can't wait til we get to the later episodes that I've only seen once or not at all.

I'm still reading The Lord of the Rings. I'm not reading a very portable edition and so it's fairly slow going. Especially since my Fitbit has made me very aware of my sleeping patterns. I'm trying to turn the light out earlier to make sure that I'm hitting my sleep targets. Unfortunately that impacts on my reading time. I'm thinking in the next week I'm going to have to have a bit of a push to try and read two chapters a day otherwise it'll be the only book I read this year!

I'm still managing my Middle-earth walking. There's only one day when I've not managed my full 1.2 miles and that was purely because I woke up in an icy winter wonderland on Friday. I was half expecting to need to call into work because the road through the estate was iced over, but we made it off okay.

Yesterday we made up for it by going for an extra long walk, and again in the evening because it had been snowing all afternoon. I love snowy weather, so I dragged a reluctant Mr Click and an excitable Tara-Tup out with me.

There was that monochromatic thing going on out in the world as though someone had turned the saturation way down, and although you can't see it in this photo, there were massive snowflakes falling.

It's almost all gone today, of course, but it was pretty while it lasted.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Film Review: Star Wars - The Force Awakens

I know, I'm delaying my Hobbit film review post again. But I'm already late to the party with reviewing this film and I didn't want to interrupt The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug once it got started.

My little local cinema outdid themselves at the end of last year, when they were able to arrange a midnight showing of the latest Star Wars film, The Force Awakens. I didn't go to it, but I was very keen to see the film. I was half hoping that we might manage a trip to the mainland to see it in a big cinema at some point over the holidays, but the weather was so bad we spent the whole time on the island.

We got down to the final three days of it at the cinema and Mr Click scored us some tickets. I'm actually kind of glad we didn't see it until towards the end of the run because it meant that we weren't seeing it in a packed out cinema. Plus I've diligently avoided spoilers and all my colleagues and friends have been very careful about not revealing spoilers to me (which I'm thrilled about).

That said, if you don't want to be spoiled. Don't read this post. There will be spoilers abounding in the next few paragraphs.

I'm warning you. Seriously, don't read on if you don't want to know what happens in this film.

Okay, read on, but don't say I didn't warn you.

This 'Episode' of the Star Wars saga is set roughly thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi and things are not going so well in the galaxy far far away. A rather Nazi-ish group, known as the First Order, is trying to take over where Darth Vader left off, meanwhile the Resistance (a new and improved Rebel Alliance) is doing their best to bring them down. An X-wing pilot, Poe, hides an important document in a droid (the adorable BB-8), which then falls in with Rey and Finn (a scavenger and a Storm Trooper deserter, respectively) who must use this information to help the Resistance and bring down the First Order's latest weapon.

It all feels a little bit A New Hope.

And in a way it kind of is. There's an awful lot here which took me right back to A New Hope, to the degree that I came out of the cinema and pronounced it Star Wars: A New New Hope.

But I loved every minute of it.

Seriously, right from the moment that familiar music started, and the text began to scroll. I was in my element. I was almost expecting to be disappointed by the film, because so many people had told me how good it was, that I couldn't really believe that it was going to be that good. Sure, there are bits I could pick fault with, but on the whole, it was a really good story and I like how it's set things up for future films.

I should probably begin with the cast, but I honestly can't start with any of the human characters. They are all upstaged by the cute little droid, BB-8. Move over R2 and Wall-E, I've got a new favourite robot! It's amazing that a large ball with a head on top can have so much character, but he really does. I especially love the way that he hides behind people's legs and then peers out. He looks really scared and you feel for him. I really want an actual BB-8 of my own.

Also, Han Solo, Leia, Chewbaca, R2-D2, C3P0 and Luke! Everyone's there. It's so much fun watching them all appear on the screen and then wondering if any of the others will. And then they do! I'm so glad they did it like that.

I know that some people online have complained about scavenger, Rey's Mary-Sue-ish qualities and I can sort of see where they're coming from. She impressed Han Solo, for crying out loud! She's never had any training in the Force but just picks it up without any trouble and she can get the Millennium Falcon flying without too much trouble. But all the same, she's all kinds of awesome. I love that she's a female character who just doesn't really need rescuing; she ends up in difficult situations or in trouble and then just does what she can to get out of it. I hope that's a trend that continues in the future films.

I also like the character of Finn. Considering he's basically a clone, there's something very human about him. He found himself in a horrible situation and did what he needed to in order to escape, he's a little like Rey in that respect. At the same time, he's ashamed of where he came from and doesn't want anyone to know, so he's prepared to make up things which could potentially get him into trouble. He doesn't want to be a hero, he doesn't want to save the world, he just wants to get somewhere safe without anyone trying to kill him. He's very much a reluctant hero and it's that ambiguity in the character which I really enjoy.

The biggest moment for me in the film was when they killed Han Solo! I'm so glad that I wasn't spoiled for that, it was such a shock that it took everything in me not to yell out 'NO!' in the middle of the cinema. It certainly had the effect it was supposed to.

As for the rest of the film, I'm not sure I was prepared for it to be as funny as it was. I can't wait to see it again because there are some truly hilarious moments. One of my favourite bits was when Rey was trying to fix the Millennium Falcon and is getting Finn to hand her the tools she needs. She keeps pointing to the one she wants while he holds up completely wrong tools, she gets really annoyed with him and is all 'No! The one I'm pointing to!"'

I'm torn between reading online spoilers and speculation about the next films and avoiding it so it's all a big surprise to me when it comes. I'm fairly certain that Rey has got to be some relation to Luke or Leia. I just can't wait to see it again.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Chapter-by-Chapter: New Moon, Chapter 5

How cool is this? I've managed to get a post up every day for a fortnight! Let's just take a moment to celebrate.

Okay. Done.

Moving on to New Moon. Last week's chapter saw Bella's dad calling her on her moping around so she went out with her friend Jess to the cinema. It was awkward to say the least, especially when she decided to go and confront one of the guys who threatened to attack her in the last book. Luckily it wasn't one of those guys, but Jess was thoroughly unimpressed and it put a total dampener on the evening.

Now on with Chapter 5: Cheater

What Happens?

Bella decides to be reckless and acquires a couple of motorcycles; one of her father's least favourite things in the world. Then she recruits her hot young friend, Jacob Black, to help her get them running. Did I mention he's hot? He's hot? This is the start of a new and improved Bella.

Thoughts as I read:

I'm guessing that either Bella's going to throw herself at one of her friends' boyfriends and therefore become a cheater, or she's going to cheat on some important test, thus causing drama. It's going to be a thrilling fourteen pages, I can tell.

Bella's at work but Mike's suggesting she head off early since it's quiet but Bella's happy to stay. She's got nothing better to do with her time, remember.

I still hadn't been able to sink back into my protective shell of numbness, and everything seemed oddly close and loud today, like I'd taken cotton out of my ears. I tried to tune out the laughing hikers without success.

There's two guys still in the store who are sharing mountain war stories. One's seen massive grizzly bears. He's either lying or there are some sort of shape shifters that we're yet to meet in the series. The guy with a beard tries to get Mike on his side about the giant bears. Mike's a pretty good salesperson and starts trying to sell them bear-safe food containers.

Bella leaves before we can hear any more about the bears, or the bear-safe food canisters.
Instead we get about a page more of Bella moaning. She's still in pain and she's struggling to sleep and when she does get to sleep she's having nightmares. And wah wah wah. I'm sorry, Bella, you're not the only one to have broken up with your boyfriend.

I always had nightmares now, every night. Not nightmares really, not in the plural, because it was always the same nightmare. You'd think I'd get bored after so many months, grow immune to it. But the dream never failed to horrify me, and only ended when I woke myself with screaming. Charlie didn't come in to see what was wrong anymore, to make sure there was no intruder strangling me or something like that – he was used to it now.

One, Charlie is right to insist that Bella needs professional help, and two, if she was being strangled, I'm now sure he'd actually hear her screaming. Just saying.

Bella's dream is pretty much nothing. It's dark and she's looking for something and then she can't remember what she's searching for. And she knows that the nothing is all that there will ever be. And this leads to more moping as she drives without really paying attention to where she's going; so now she's endangering other road users as well. Luckily she pulls over and curls up on the seat to cry. It's better than crashing the car or hurting someone.

Jeez, this girl really needs a counsellor.

Next we're onto the fact that despite Edward's insistence that it would be like she'd never been there, even though it really is like he'd been there because she was completely changed inside. And now there's no reason why she shouldn't be totally reckless, even if Edward's told her she can't be stupid, there's nothing really stopping her from being reckless. Perhaps that will mean we'll get to see something interesting instead of all this whining.

To be reckless in Forks would take a lot of creativity –maybe more than I had. But I wished I could find some way… I might feel better if I weren't holding fast, all alone, to a broken pact.

Yeah, Bella, you're really not that creative. Surely if you had any degree of creativity, you'd have found a way to stop all this destructive cycle and move on already.

With this plan of creative recklessness in its embryonic stages, Bella decides to get out and wander. Except her truck is parked in the way of some of their neighbours' driveways. It's while she's looking at this that she notices a sign in front of one of the houses' mailbox. It's a FOR SALE sign. For a motorcyle. Charlie's least favourite mode of transport. What better way for his daughter to be properly reckless.

So she heads up to the door where one of the Marks brothers answers it. He informs her that the bike doesn't work, but Bella doesn't care, I'm sure she knows someone who can help her fix it up. The Marks brother invites her to just help herself and that it's best if she takes both, for free, since she could use parts from one to fix up the other. I was right, she's got plans to get Jacob Black to do it all for her; the other option is to take it to some guy called John Dowling who charges people a fortune for repairs. Poor Jacob.

Back at home she calls her dad at work, instantly sending him into a panic in case there's something else wrong with her. There isn't, she just wants Jacob's address and directions to it. Once there Jacob comes out to see her at the truck and I get the impression that he might just be her new obsession:

His excited grin stretch wide across his face, the bright teeth standing in vivid contrast to the deep russet colour of his skin. I'd never seen his hair out of its usual ponytail before. It fell like black satin curtains on either side of his broad face.

He's not made out of marble or sparkly but he's definitely getting a 'good-looking guy' description. Especially as the description of him goes on for a whole extra paragraph so we know we're definitely talking about Edward Cullen levels of hotness here. The gist of this is that he's now a lot taller than last year, he's six foot five.

Bella's invited in and it's time to say hello to Billy before going back outside to see the car Jacob's working on. Jacob has a little garage where he does his work. I know nothing about cars, but I'm guessing this is some sort of classic Volkswagen. It's as old as I am anyway and it was Jacob's reward for passing on Billy's warning to Bella at the dance last year.

I don't think Bella's really that interested in the car, as soon as she can get the conversation around to it, she tells Jacob about the motorbikes. He thinks this is really cool, he doesn't want paying and he agrees not to tell Charlie. Looks like Bella's really scored here.

Actually, I take it back, she's offering him the second bike so long as he teaches her how to ride. I'd say that's a pretty fair exchange. And then there's the offer of a date too. Run, Jacob! Run as fast as you can!

This makes Bella happy. I suppose that's something. It's probably because she's finally getting her mind off of Edward and focusing on something positive. Motorbikes might be dangerous but at least it's a hobby. Personally I prefer needlework or knitting, but each to their own.

Jacob does point out that it's going to take some money for parts. Bella's got that covered too. She's going to use her college fund. It's not like she needs to go to college anyway after all.

As we skulked back to the makeshift garage, I contemplated my luck. Only a teenage boy would agree to this: deceiving both our parents while repairing dangerous vehicles using money meant for my college education. He didn't see anything wrong with that picture. Jacob was a gift from the gods.

So not only is Bella being reckless, but she's encouraging a younger friend to join her. Way to go, Bella.

And actually, I kind of think that this book is improving now that we're getting slightly less moping over Edward. Long may it continue.